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One Dozen Charged in Financial Scams & Ripoffs Against Elderly RelativesContact: Rusty Hills, Media Contact 517-373-8060 Agency: Attorney General
May 15, 2008
GRAND RAPIDS - Attorney General Mike Cox and the Office of Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, supported by the Financial Management Services of the U.S. Department of Treasury, AARP, the Michigan Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, and the Health Care Association of Michigan, announced today that one dozen individuals from West Michigan, Northwest Michigan and the UP have been charged with felonies for financially exploiting seniors. Another 85 cases remain under investigation.
The joint effort is named Project $CAMS (Stop Crimes Against Michigan Seniors), a statewide criminal enforcement initiative to protect residents of nursing homes from financial exploitation. The project, designed to cover all of Michigan's approximately 420 nursing homes and their population of over 40,000 residents, identifies potential financial exploitation of nursing home residents by identifying residents with past due payments. The project's start-up phase includes West Michigan, Northwest Michigan and the UP.
"Taking advantage of seniors is terrible enough, but financially exploiting your mom, dad, aunt or uncle is despicable," Cox said. "This project combines the power of state and federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute those who would financially exploit our most vulnerable senior citizens."
"The aged are among the Social Security Administration's most vulnerable beneficiaries and are the most vulnerable to criminal schemes. For someone to exploit such individuals and steal the Social
Security benefits they often desperately need is truly a reprehensible crime," said Special Agent-in-Charge William Cotter, of the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. "We will do everything in our power," said Cotter, "to protect Michigan beneficiaries and assist the Attorney General's Office in seeking justice on their behalf."
In every case the perpetrator was a relative. Some of the felony charges filed resulted from the following:
"AARP continues in its longtime concern about financial exploitation of seniors," Felicia Wasson, Associate State Director for Government Affairs for AARP Michigan, said, "Financial exploitation has many disguises, causes and forms of expression. But, the common thread of its many modalities is an effort by unscrupulous persons to extract money and resources through a variety of devious means from unsuspecting and often vulnerable individuals. Caregiver exploitation is also the most common way older people become impoverished. AARP is pleased that Attorney General Mike Cox is looking after vulnerable seniors and we applaud the work he is doing to investigate individuals in Michigan who are suspected of victimizing our nursing home residents."
Dave Herbel, the President and CEO of Michigan Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, said, "MAHSA wants to extend its thanks to Attorney General Mike Cox for helping address this issue. We share the Attorney General's commitment to protecting seniors and will do whatever we can to help catch those who financially exploit vulnerable adults."
"As an association dedicated to promoting excellence in senior care, HCAM knows the importance of protecting seniors in every aspect of their care - physically, mentally and financially," said Jon Reardon, chair of the Health Care Association of Michigan's Board of Directors. "It is important to protect the financial well-being of our residents from those unscrupulous individuals who would like to line their pockets by stealing everything seniors worked their lives for and are now unable to defend."
Financial exploitation of senior citizens is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It is estimated that as many as 5,000,000 seniors are victimized annually. This problem is compounded by the fact that only one in 100 instances of victimization is typically reported. In addition, nursing home residents are the most vulnerable and the least likely to be able to detect and/or report it.
Project $CAMS started in August 2007. At that time, 44 cases of financial abuse against nursing home residents had been filed since 2003. In the 9 months since the project began, 22 additional cases have been filed (including the 12 announced today).
The project divides the state into regions. Three regions were identified for the start-up phase: West MI (8 counties), NW MI (16 counties) and the UP (15 counties). The nursing home facilities in these regions participated by identifying residents who were behind in their payments and providing relevant documents. To date, all 113 nursing homes in the three regions have participated.
Special Agents from the Department of Attorney General and Office of the Inspector General formed a task force to obtain and review records, conduct interviews and perform field investigations. In addition, investigative subpoenas (81 to date) were employed to obtain financial and other relevant information for each of the identified residents.
Attorney General Cox stated: "I want to thank all of the partners for their commitment to fighting financial abuse of our most vulnerable citizens."
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